Burning Questions

Get to know more about the 'Top Chef Masters' host.

Jul 6, 2009

1. Bravotv.com: What is the one song you can¹t stop listening to right now?
"Rock with You" by Michael Jackson. I saw clips of this video for the first time on recent news reports, and I am in love with his smile and energy when he sings this song! Went right to iTunes and downloaded it.

2. Bravotv.com: What is your favorite restaurant/dish anywhere? In NYC?
This is truly an impossible question for me to answer! Depending on my mood, what i like to eat changes all the time. I mean, hell, why limit myself to just a few favorites, right? However, i can say that I love the grilled octopus at Taverna Kyclades in Astoria, love the fat and decadent otoro rolls at Masa (I've only been twice in my life — does he still serve it near the end of his
omakase?), and i am always on the hunt for the PERFECT bouillabase so I order it at any restaurant where i see it on the menu.

I could eat the braised cod dish at Woo Lae Oak time and again. I am always happy, too, when I eat a well-toasted seedy bagel with a scoop of tuna salad on one half, a scoop of egg salad on the other half, then squashed together into a delicious ugly mess. So New York
delis are also a favorite spot of mine. I've also been really digging the burger at Freeman's these days and the roasted veggie pie at Lifethyme is glorious for a to-go meal. Did i mention the crispy pig ear salad that Chef Ryan Skeen makes isto die for? I'm not a big dessert person, but I love the sweet and salty chocolate cupcakes at Baked in Red Hook. Oh! And a great omelet cuz i adore eggs. I could keep going ... are you sorry you asked now?

3. Bravotv.com: What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
I make a very humble kimchi chigae at home. Even my mom says it's pretty good! It's a spicy and hearty Korean cabbage stew made with overripe kimchi and I add pork, tofu, enoki mushrooms, sesame oil, and other seasonings. I love this dish, but i have to make and eat it by myself since the smell can be seriously garlicky and offensive! I swear though, it's an absolutely addictive and tasty concoction.

4. Bravotv.com: What¹s the weirdest thing that happened on-air in the kitchen while taping Eat Out NY?
I booked this Greek chef for my show, and after we talked about what we wanted to make for the segment, he seemed good to go. When the cameras started rolling and we began cooking, however, the poor guy literally FROZE! I have never seen anyone go so rigid so quick like that, ever! I took him by the arms and shook him a little, trying to snap him out of it and make him laugh, but the chef was frozen. It was endearing actually, but I knew we couldn't go on shooting with him, so I did a seated '"Guide to Greek cuisine" with the owner's
daughter, who was at the restaurant that day. Everything went beautifully, but I will never forget him.

5. Bravotv.com: You¹ve said you love to eat — how do you stay so thin?! Any workout you care to share?
I get asked this all the time! My friends who I hang out with all comment on how lucky I am to be able to "eat like a pig" and stay skinny. Skinny, fat-- none of those words have to do with the enjoyment of food for me. Food is a pleasure and a joy, and I always try to enjoy what i'm
eating, whatever it is! My advice is: Don't eat cuz you're stressed or depressed or mad or
whenever you're fueled by emotion. Eat when you're hungry and when you're ready to relish what you're about to put in your mouth. Treat your taste buds — and ultimately, your body and yourself — and however that manifests physically in you is absolute perfection. Remember, food lovers come in all shapes and sizes.

As far as working out goes, I think exercise is an essential part of living a kick-ass life, just like eating tasty foods are. I work out to be healthy and it makes me feel great. Just do what it takes to make yourself feel good. That's the key.

6. Bravotv.com: Who do you think is the toughest judge?
During Top Chef Masters shooting, Jeff Lewis from Bravo's Flipping Out was very tough, but awesome! He reacted honestly and immediately to the food he ate, and it was a trip
to listen to him voice his stream of consciousness.

7. Bravotv.com: What won¹t you eat?
I don't care to eat larvae, worms, bug-type foods. There are so many other things I wanna try before I go there.

8. Bravotv.com: What is your food guilty pleasure?
No food makes me feel guilty per se, cuz i'll just eat it, but I try not to keep nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia) in my house. Ican't leave it alone! it's like the jar is calling out to me to come eat it.

9. Bravotv.com: If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tuna salad and egg salad sandwiches. And guacamole.

10. Bravotv.com: What do you want your last meal to be?
I'd start with a Ketel One dirty martini with two Bella di Cerignola olives in it. Then, I'd have Jean-Georges Vongerichten's egg caviar with vodka cream. On the table would also be jjajang myun, a korean noodle dish that's smothered in black bean sauce that's been sauteed in pork fat. Warm toasty bread from a brick oven accompanied by ridiculously huge bowls of hummus and babaganoush. Butternut squash soup. Linguine with fresh, sweet sea urchin and basil in a cream sauce. Bbraised short ribs, a lobster roll, scallops with morels, all kinds of sushi rolls, and coconut pudding. Also a moist three-layer carrot cake with dense sour cream frosting.
Vietnamese coffee to end the meal.